Jeremy Ogul | Contributing Editor
Local representatives debate changes to mail delivery
The U.S. Postal Service delivers mail to the front door of most Uptown residents, but that could change if Congress adopts a postal reform bill designed to reduce the cost of delivering mail.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has introduced two bills — the Postal Reform Act of 2013 and the Secure Delivery for America Act of 2014 — that would force the Postal Service to transition away from door delivery at 30 million addresses by 2022. Instead of delivering mail to the door of every residence, postal carriers would deliver to curbside mailboxes or centralized cluster boxes that house the mailboxes of multiple residents.
That idea is unacceptable to Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego), who gathered a group of supporters in Talmadge on Aug. 27 to denounce the proposal. She also introduced a resolution in Congress opposing centralized delivery.
“We don’t need this,” Davis said. “The most vulnerable people in our communities will suffer as a result.”
Davis said elderly and disabled citizens would be hurt by the switch to cluster boxes, especially if they receive prescriptions by mail, because of the increased distance they may be forced to travel to retrieve their mail.
Furthermore, the cluster boxes are unsightly magnets for theft and vandalism, she said.
When Davis surveyed community groups in her district earlier this summer, the North Park Planning Committee passed a resolution opposing centralized delivery.
“In the older communities in the mid-city, cluster boxes would affect the community character and the historicity of a neighborhood like Talmadge, which to me looks like Mayberry,” said Vicki Granowitz, chair of the North Park Planning Committee. “It’s intact, it’s beautiful, and to have cluster boxes every so often really destroys what these communities look like.”
Combined with bus shelters and ugly utility boxes, cluster boxes would affect property values, Granowitz said.
“Just think if you would want this in front of your house,” she said. “Don’t do this to us, please.”
The Postal Service has already begun phasing out door delivery in new developments, but Issa’s legislation would essentially make cluster boxes mandatory in many neighborhoods that currently receive door delivery. Issa’s bill would require the cluster boxes to be placed “in locations that maximize delivery efficiency, ease of use for postal patrons, and respect for private property rights.”
Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego), who also spoke at the press conference, said that while there are economic challenges that the Postal Service must address, Congress should not get involved in mandating the specific measures the Postal Service should take.
Issa disagrees with Davis and Peters.
“The consequence of doing nothing to address an Internet-era erosion in the volume of traditional mail delivery is a multi-billion dollar taxpayer funded bailout of the Postal Service,” Issa said. “Unfortunately, some [representatives] holding a press conference and pretending there isn’t a problem won’t solve it.”
The Postal Reform Act includes exceptions and provisions that would allow seniors and others with physical hardships to keep their door delivery if they already have it, and it would give the Postal Service the flexibility to determine where to implement centralized delivery, Issa said.
“In reality, less than 10 percent of postal customers would see any change under this legislation to their delivery,” Issa said.
Despite the financial issues the Postal Service faces, the debate over cluster boxes may amount to little more than hot air in the near term. Congress only has about three months left to act on legislation in the current session, and neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate have voted on Issa’s or Davis’s legislation.